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Opinion

The party

VIRTUAL REALITY - Tony Lopez - The Philippine Star

At the 22nd anniversary dinner of BizNewsAsia last Nov. 25, 2023, 200 guests showed up despite heavy rains and a competing event in Malacañang.

They included the owners or heads of the Philippines’ five largest conglomerates: Ramon S. Ang, president-CEO, San Miguel Corp.; Lance Gokongwei, president-CEO JG Summit Holdings (Gokongwei Group); Sabin Aboitiz, president-CEO, Aboitiz Equity Ventures; Amando Tetangco Jr., chair, SM Investments Corp.; and Lorenzo V. Tan, president-CEO, House of Investments (Yuchengco-RCBC Group). Plus of course, the head of President Marcos Jr.’s economic team, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, with Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual and Information Communications Technology Secretary Ivan John Uy.

In 2022 revenues (billions), the largest are: 1. SMC, P1,506 (P1.5 trillion); 2. SM Investments Corp., P553.77; 3. Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc., P306.75; 4. JG Summit Holdings, P301.9; and 5. Ayala Corp., P263.82.

In market capitalization, the rankings (in billions) are: 1. SM Investments Corp., P1,019.16; 2. Ayala Corp., P404.1; 3. JG Summit, P289.18; 4. Aboitiz Equity Ventures, P273.4; and 5. SMC, P254.83.

Excerpts from my speech:

Today, I turn 75.  Today, my BizNewsAsia newsmagazine is 22. Today, I have been a journalist for 53 years.

Tonight is my Thanksgiving Day, your Thanksgiving Day, our Thanksgiving Day.

I thank God for the gift of life, and giving me the 75 years to enjoy one of most exhilarating, satisfying, purposeful journeys even given a human on this earth.

I thank God for my family, my children – Myra, the eldest of five, who died in 2008, my daughters Ivy, Noreen and Ciara who are all here tonight. Please stand up. My only, son, Ranel, who is in the US.

Ivy is a lawyer, from Ateneo, and finished real estate studies at Wharton. Her husband, Benedict, her law classmate, is a CPA-lawyer, working as a managing director of one of the largest professional services firms in the US. They have three kids, my wonderful grandchildren – Enzo, who is graduating from Georgia Tech, Gio and Audrey. They are in the US. Ivy is a very good writer, has wit and sharpness of mind.

My third daughter, Noreen, finished IS-interdisciplinary studies at Ateneo. She draws and writes well. She is into marketing. Her only child is teener Anika, an artist and budding writer.

My youngest is Ciara. She finished IS at Ateneo. She and her husband, Michael Galang, also an Atenean, are into insurance, a big business. They have two kids, Rafael or Rafa, and Ignacio or Nacho. Looking at Rafa and Nacho, I see myself, and I see the future. They are bubbly, bright, in command of themselves despite their young age.

I wish I could see all my six grandchildren realize their potential – for a better country, a better world.

Tonight, we gather to celebrate – after the century’s worst pandemic, after the century’s worst recession, after a turbulent era, where democrats have become tyrants, democracies have become tyrannies, after wars and tensions on many fronts, and after it has been indicated the earth would warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius since the 1800s during this decade.

Yet, we gather tonight to celebrate our triumph over the pandemic, over the recession, to celebrate our triumph against man’s inhumanity to man and man’s inhumanity to Mother Earth.

We gather tonight to celebrate our economy. It will be the fastest growing economy this year in the ASEAN Ten. It will again be the fastest growing in the ASEAN in 2024. And by the end of BBM’s term in 2028, we would have been middle class.

That’s an amazing feat. Considering today, in much of ASEAN, the Philippines has the highest inflation rate, the highest interest rates, the highest energy prices, the highest poverty incidence and among the highest internet prices and the lowest internet penetration, and despite corruption’s dirty hands ready to snatch the nearest available intelligence fund and pork barrel.  We don’t have enough water for drinking and for irrigation, despite the Philippine territory being 75 percent water.

We don’t have enough food, 25 percent of our food needs must be imported, despite the Philippines having the three greatest and oldest rice research institutions in the world – the IRRI, PhilRice and UP Los Baños. When IRRI was founded in 1960, the Philippines was the richest country in Asia. We had surplus food. We imported maids from Hong Kong, girls from Taipei, security guards from India. Filipinos were the No. 1 tourists in Hong Kong and Japan.

Journalism today is an endangered profession. At this writing, more than 67 journalists have died from two years of the Russia-Ukraine war. Another 48 journalists have died after two months of the Israel-Hamas war.

The Philippines is among the Top Ten countries most dangerous for journalists. Four journalists have died under the BBM administration. Since the restoration of democracy, in 1986, 197 journalists have died. That’s more dead Filipino journalists than the number of journalists who died from 1946 when we regained Independence to until the end of the 20-year Marcos I regime.

Then there is the threat of AI – artificial intelligence. Today, in America, in most newspapers, 70 percent of sports stories are written, not by humans, but by robots.

You know, journalists, humans, will beat AI anytime in journalism. Today and in the future. Why? Because professional journalists have three things AI does not possess – accuracy, fairness, transparency. And of course, journalists fall in love. Robots don’t.

I covered and witnessed all kinds of events – fires, crimes, massacres, massive floods, plane crashes, epidemics, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, three EDSA revolts, 14 coup attempts, the world’s two longest insurgencies – the NPA and Muslim separatism. I interviewed presidents, from Marcos I to Marcos II.

My life has been marked by more triumphal ups than depressing downs. I could not have asked for more in life.

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Email: [email protected]

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